“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” Jesus, Jn. 15:18
Why would anyone actually hate Jesus? It’s much more understandable that people might have an extreme dislike for Christians, being that many professing believers don’t take the teachings of Jesus very seriously.
But hate Jesus?
It’s no secret that many skeptics and critics of Christianity would agree with Ghandi, the Hindu guru who admired Jesus for his call to non-violent resistance. Ghandi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”
I will be the first to empathize with this sort of repugnant response from non-believers against the Christian faith. It’s disheartening to know that many Christians have outright rejected the teachings of Jesus—either largely due to ignorance or extensive efforts to do some manner of hermeneutical gymnastics around the biblical text.
Regardless of the reason, there is simply no excuse for it. If you’re an atheist or skeptic reading this, I’m sorry that some Christians make it difficult for you to see the image and will of God fully expressed in the person of Jesus. I’m sorry when and where I have failed you.
Truthfully, even authentic followers of Jesus will fail to live up to Christ’s example. Therefore, if you are a skeptic, I would say there are Christians that accept all of the teachings of Jesus and are presently on a journey of faith with the intent to see Christ’s life manifested through them by the power of his Spirit. There are real disciples—true learners.
Now let me say that I don’t think that misguided Christians should be the basis by which a person makes a judgment about Jesus Christ of Nazareth. As he said to those in his own day who were trying to make up their mind about him, Jesus says to all of us today:
“Who do you say that I am?”
Who was Jesus? What did he teach? What did he believe about himself? What did he accomplish in his short ministry? And what does it have to do with me? If we will approach the Gospels in all sincerity and with an open heart, I believe we may encounter Christ for ourselves.
So what is it that Jesus had in mind when he said that the world would hate his followers because it first hated him? Well, rest assured that it’s not for being hypocritical, or for purposely being self-righteous jerks.
Jesus said, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (Jn. 15:19).
What then does it mean to “not belong” to this present world system? For that is indeed what Jesus has in mind. He is not promoting some sort of Gnostic escapism. His kingdom is not of this world, but it is for this world.
As God intends to bring heaven to earth, how has Christ called us to live in this world that lovers of the world would hate us for it?
That’s what this series of posts will address.
I intend to argue that we must take Jesus at his word or do away with him entirely. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer has written, “There are only two ways possible of encountering Jesus: man must die or he must put Jesus to death.” In other words, you must lose your life if you wish to save it.
In an attempt to clarify the gospel message for Christians and skeptics alike, I have chosen seven primary reasons for why the political and religious leaders in the first century hated Jesus and had him put to death. And of course why the world system still hates Jesus of Nazareth today.
I will briefly expound on each of these in the next six posts:
Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God.
Jesus was not patriotic.
Jesus was not religious.
Jesus rejected materialism.
Jesus challenged worldly wisdom.
Jesus was loving and intolerant.
Jesus revealed the new way to be human.
This is not an exhaustive list. I have simply decided to use these seven provocative statements to summarize the radical life and teachings of Jesus.
This summary will help us to stare long and hard at the most controversial man in all of human history, and to rethink what we thought we knew about the radical Jewish Messiah from Nazareth.
It’s my hope that Christians will consider if they have fully accepted the teachings of Jesus regarding the gospel of the kingdom of God, and if they are intentional in being obedient to Christ’s commands.
If you are a skeptic, it’s my prayer that you will open your heart to the historical Jesus in the Gospels of the New Testament—that you might know him as being alive today and doing something about evil.
In my next post, I’ll begin by expounding on the first two reasons together, since they are related. For the remaining five, I will address each of them individually. I intend to keep them succinct as possible for easier reading.
D.D. Flowers, 2013.